High season in the Hamptons — June to September — is when the Hampton Theatre Company goes on hiatus. The rest of the year, it’s the only professional theater in town. Since 1984, the little Hamptons-based company that could has cultivated a devoted following of theater connoisseurs with a diverse assortment of plays — four a season, no musicals — from classic to contemporary, from farce to fatalistic drama.
“The dead of winter used to be our high season,” says Sarah Hunnewell, executive director of the company she joined in 1990. “But now we do as well if not better in fall and spring. Maybe our audience is getting older,” she worries aloud, “spending winters in Florida.”
Hampton Theatre now offers a younger-than-35 discount.
Hunnewell directs the company’s midwinter production opening Thursday, Amy Herzog’s “4000 Miles,” a Pulitzer Prize finalist for drama. It’s the story of hippie-ish Leo (-ish because he’s too young to have been a hippie), who bikes 4,000 miles without telling anyone where he’s headed and arrives on his 91-year-old grandmother’s Greenwich Village doorstep at 3 in the morning.
“I read it and loved it,” Hunnewell says of the 2011-12 Off-Broadway play. “Such an honest, real and sweet piece.”
Its inclusion in the HTC season, which opened with “November,” a political comedy concluding just before the presidential election, is typical of how plays make it to the stage at the company’s home base, 175-seat Quogue Community Hall. “Usually one of us finds a play we want to direct, or star in, or both,” Hunnewell says, referring to the gang of four who select each season’s productions. Andrew Botsford, who has appeared in a couple of Hampton Theatre plays a year since Season 1, suggested David Mamet’s “November,” about an ineptly corrupt president whose re-election prospects are nil. Botsford played the president.
Along with Botsford, others who have served recently on the play selection committee are HTC co-founders Diana Marbury, who has directed and starred in scores of plays since the company’s inception and James Ewing, whose duties have ranged from set construction to directing and acting. New to the group is board member Ed Brennan, whose wife, Terry, has just been hired as general manager. Hunnewell describes HTC as a “nonunion professional company,” paying a stipendt hat “starts to level the playing field” with Equity actors it contracts at union scale.
Past Hampton Theatre productions range from Michael Frayn’s “Noises Off,” perhaps the finest modern farce in the English language, to J.B. Priestley’s taut murder mystery/morality play “An Inspector Calls.” Following “November” and “4000 Miles,” the current season continues with Bernard Slade’s “An Act of the Imagination,” March 23-April 9, and “Alarms and Excursions,” a compendium of mini-farces by Frayn, May 23-June 11.
“Our mission is to entertain our audience,” Hunnewell says, “but also to push them a little bit. We’re not about doing only crowd-pleasers. It’s a balance. We want to give people something to think about, but we also want people in the seats.”
WHAT “4000 Miles”
WHEN | WHERE Through Jan. 29. Upcoming: 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 8 p.m. Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Hampton Theatre Company, Quogue Community Hall, 25 Jessup Ave.
TICKETS $30, $25 seniors (except Saturdays), $15 younger than 35, $10 students; 866-811-4111, hamptontheatre.org
‘Sylvia’ in Port Jeff
WHAT A midlife crisis causes Greg to fall in love with a dog, causing his wife, Kate, great confusion and consternation in “Sylvia.” That’s the pooch’s name in A.R. Gurney’s comedy about a most unlikely triangle opening this weekend at Theatre Three.
WHEN | WHERE Through Feb. 4, Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson. Upcoming: 8 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday
TICKETS $35, $28 seniors and students, $20 children ages 5-12; 631-928-9100, theatrethree.com